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Aeet had sailed on its expedition, which | House — " that they had suddenly rushed might prove fatal to the distant settle- from backwardness to precipitation, from ments of the British empire. He enquired | despondency to confidence, from checking whether we were actually at war or at the ardour of administration to a crimina. peace with Spain, that she dared to insult | tion of their inactivity.” But had not the our flag in her ports, and our commanders change of public affairs reconciled the conwere so degradingly treated by her, whilst sistency of these two lines of conduct? every attention was paid to the ships of our The first was between us and America, revolted provinces, and their captains sa- the latter between us and France. That luted with naval honours by the admiral at related to an offensive war against our Cadiz? Was it the miere incapacity of ad- brethren ; this to a defensive one against ministration which tempted Spain to treat our natural enemy. Upon the whole, he us with such reproach? If it was; that would not oppose a grant which was for incapacity was as injurious to the nation such necessary purposes, but he appreas the blackest treachery. He asked if it hended it would be of little use, if the adwas possible for ministers to be awake, and ministration of affairs remained in the yet suffer the Toulon fleet to sail, without hands of men so flagrantly ignorant, and taking a single step to oppose them? so scandalously negligent as the present Could they call themselves ministers and servants of the crown. guardians of the nation's weal, and yet Mr. Penton assured the House, that confess that they had procured no intelli- we had a fleet ably equipped, and ready gence till Monday sen’night, of the depar- to sail when commanded. He denied that ture of that fleet on the 13th of April ? the Spanish admiral had returned the saWas it from want of power to oppose lute of the rebel privateer, and said he had them, or from the same inauspicious fata- his information of the affair from no less lity which had banished every honest man an authority than captain Rowley himself. from the councils of his Majesty ? Was He vindicated the ministry respecting the our navy a mere pageant fleet, or was it Whitehaven affair. Such attacks had been equal to actual service? Was it victualled made in the most active administrations, and manned, or was it yet to be equipped ? of which the descent of M. Thurot upon Did the registry of seamen in France give Carrickfergus in the north of Ireland, her an advantage over us in the speedy during the last war, was a recent instance. equipment of her navy ? Was this ne. Every thing that could be done on that ver known till that day? Were we so ig- occasion, had been instantly put in exenorant of this advantage, that no exertions cution. Four ships of force were disshould be made to guard against it? patched in different courses, in search of . Where was now the boasted respectability the privateer, and would, he hoped, bé of our navy? Were we to trace it in the soon able to give some account of her. pillages suffered on our coasts, or the On being asked by sie G. Yonge, if the alarms and terror into which so many fleet at Spithead had received any orders parts of the kingdom had been lately for sailing, he declined giving an answer thrown, by invading insolence? But the to that question, unless called upon by the plundering a nobleman's house, the ravag- House. ing a few estates, or burning an odd town, Mr. Fox asked the House, if any man were not perhaps objects to challenge the in his senses would give a vote of credit vigour of our fleets! The spirit of the mi- to an administration, who were always the litia was certainly great. The ardour of last to learn what they should be the first the first men in the kingdom, and the ge- to know ? An administration who could be nerous alacrity of persons of every condi- so insensible of the sudden emergencies of tion to enter into that constitutional such times as these, that, when official adbody, left us little apprehension for vice came of an event almost universally our internal defence; but in this, as in understood for several days before, not every other instance of the conduct of go- more than one of them could be found in vernment, there were many evident neg town; their amusements had engrossed lects. The delay in calling them out, and their attention ; nor could a sufficient numthe want of tents and arms, left them even ber be procured for holding a council till yet unequal to the duties of essential ser- the hour of debate was lost? Who, then, vice. He appealed to the House on the could support such ministers? Who could validity of the charge of government be extravagant enough to trust them with against gentlemen on his side of the the expenditure of a single shilling?
Lord George Germain acknowledged that appearances were against the ministry; but appearances were not to justify a condemnation; a full enquiry into the circumstances might place their case in a different light. For his part, he was ready to meet every scrutiny, and wished punishment to fall where it was deserved. When the dispatches arrived he took the speediest means to convene the ministers from the country, where some of them were. From the time of their arrival the greatest expedition had been used by him, in sending the orders of council to the proper officers at Spithead; but misfortunes were not always to be avoided. He hoped, he heartily wished, our affairs might take a hapier turn; and concluded by urging, that it would have been imprudent to have dispatched after count D’Estaing a fleet intended for our home defence before we knew the destination of his fleet. Mr. For then begged the attention of the House to a resolution which he had lately moved in the Committee on the State of the Nation, “That the navy in its present state is inadequate to the defence of the empire.” Ministers then opposed it by assertions and votes, but they now confirmed it in argument and action; for the noble lord admitted that a fleet should have been ordered out for our external protection if our internal defence could have permitted it. He asserted, that a fleet might have been spared from the immediate protection of our coasts, as he was confident our militia and army would be fully sufficient to repel any for reign invader: there were ample resources in the present spirit of the nation to mock every menace of invasion. With such a dependence, how was it possible to estimate the guilt of ministers who could tamely suffer an hostile squadron to carry unmolested destruction to the British army in America? The disgrace of a Burgoyne was, it seemed, to be atoned by the defeat of a Howe, and the want of information, respecting the Franco-American treaty, was compensated in the ignorance of D'Estaing's sailing and destination. Was there any thing more wanted to seal the fatal character of the present inauspicious ministry? Or could they any longer hope to be trusted with the treasures of a nation they had so shamefully betrayed, and of whose situation the noble lord himself seemed to entertain such little confidence 2 He wished to know whether a fleet had even yet been ordered to sail after the
French squadron, and, if not too late, to prevent the destruction of our navy and army in America. Lord George Germain complained that his words were not fairly interpreted: he wished, indeed, that the orders of council could have been sooner dispatched to Spithead, but he had not expressed a single idea of despondency. The navy was now in a formidable state, and was every day increasing in strength and numbers, sufficient to warrant the fairest hopes. If ministers had been disposed to trust the defence of this kingdom to the militia, much as the fleet might be wanted at home, a number of ships might have been sent abroad. The painful pre-eminence of of. fice at such a time was little to be envied; for his part, if any gentleman of talents and inclination to serve his country wished to come into his place, he was ready to resign it. Mr. Burke said, it was idle to pretend that the destination of the Toulon fleet had been so long a secret, or that it was criminal if true. American pilots had been long engaged to conduct it. We had lost the advantage of the wind, which blew to the west during the month of April, and that by the crime of ministers; were we therefore to give our purse strings to their will, and retire in confidence to cultivate our gardens, smooth our lawns, and assume the little offices of rustic magistracy? Could we trust the sole gui. dance of the ship of the state to pilots, whom we have so lately detected in the basest torpor, whilst the danger threatened—who had left her to the mercy of the waves, quitting the decks in the moment that called for all their skill and activity—who were not to be found when the squall came on. Alas ! the rudder was lashed, and Palinurus gone to sleep! He concluded by lamenting that his country should be reduced to the poor dependence of hopes and prayers, the arms of old women; and that a British minister, instead of acting the statesman, and timely exerting the strength of the nation, should dwindle into a priest, and piously offer up his prayers for the salvation of his country. Sir Edward Astley would not give his assent to the vote of credit. He asked whether government were sure of the allegiance of Canada? and whether they had not received accounts that they were preparing to revolt; had desired to be admitted into the league with the thirteen united colonies, and had solicited the marquis de la Fayette to assist them in their requisition ?
Governor Pownall entered into the instructions given to the commissioners gone over to America. He said, the Americans would never admit of the controul of parliament; that their assent thereto would only be an act of political delusion; and therefore, if it was not too late, he recommended that the commissioners might be instructed to acknowledge their independence; and to restore peace, the only desirable object with Great Britain, to enter into treaties with them, commercial, offensive, and defensive.
Mr. Turner observed, that the hon. gentleman who spoke last had not said one word to the question; he should content himself with three, and those should be to the point; he would not vote a shilling of his constituents’ money, in support of the measures at present adopted.
The motion was agreed to. *
Debate in the Commons on Sir George Savile’s Bill for the Relief of the Roman Catholics.]. May 14. Sir George Savile moved for leave to bring in a Bill for relieving his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects, from certain penalties and disabilities imposed on them by the Act of the 11th and 12th of William 3, intituled, “An Act for the further preventing the “growth of Popery.” He stated, that one of his principal views in proposing this repeal was, to vindicate the honour, and to assert the principles of the Protestant religion, to which all persecution was, or ought to be, wholly adverse. That this pure religion ought not to have had an existence, if persecution had been lawful; and it ill became us to practise that with which we reproached others. That he did not meddle with the vast body of that enal code; but selected that Act, on which he found most of the prosecutions had been formed, and which gave the greatest scope to the base views of interested relations, and of informers for reward. The Act had not indeed been regularly put in execution, but sometimes it had ; and he understood that several lived under great terror, and some under actual contribution, in consequence of the powers given by it. As an inducement to the repeal of those penalties, which were directed with such a violence of severity against Papists, he stated the peaceable and loyal behaviour of that part of the people under a government, which, though not rigorous [VOL. XIX.]
in enforcing, yet suffered such intolerable penalties and disqualifications to stand against them on the statutes. A late loyal and excellent Address,” which they had
* On the 1st of May, 1778, the following Address of the Roman Catholic Peers and Commoners of Great Britain, was presented to his Majesty by the earl of Surry, and the right hon. the lords Linton and Petre, and was most graciously received.
“To the King's most excellent Majesty.
“The humble Address of the Roman Catho-
“We, your Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, the Roman Catholic peers and commoners of your kingdom of Great Britain, most humbly hope, that it cannot be offensive to the clemency of your Majesty's nature, or to the maxims of your just o: government, that any part of your subjects should approach your royal presence to assure your Majesty of the respectful affection which they bear to your person, and their true attachment to the civil constitution of their country; which having been perpetuated through all changes of religious opinions and establishments, has been at length perfected by that revolution which has placed your Majesty's. illustrious house on the throne of these kingdoms, and inseparably united your title to the crown, with the laws and liberties of your people.
“Our exclusion from many of the benefits of that constitution, has not diminished our reverence to it. We behold, with satisfaction, the felicity of our fellow-subjects, and we partake of #. general prosperity which results from an institution so full of wisdom. We. have patiently submitted to such restrictions and discouragements as the legislature thought expedient. We have thankfully received such relaxations of the rigour of the laws, as the mildness of an enlightened age, and the benignity of your Majesty's government, have gradually produced: and we submissively wait, without presuming to suggest either time or measure, for such other indulgence as those happy causes cannot sail, in their own season, to effect.
“We beg leave to assure your Majesty, that our dissent from the legal establishment, in matters of religion, is purely conscientious; that we hold no opinions adverse to your Majesty's government, or repugnant to the duties of good citizens. And, we trust, that this has been shewn more decisively by our irreproachable conduct for many years past, under circumstances of public discountenance and displeasure, than it can be manifested by any declaration whatever.
“In a time of public danger, when your Majesty's subjects can have but one interest,
presented to the throne, stood high among the instances which sir George pointed out, of the safety, and the good consequences, which were likely to attend this liberal procedure of parliament. He observed, that in that Address they not only expressed their obedience to the government under which they lived, but their attachment to the constitution upon which the civil rights of this country have been established by the Revolution, and which placed the present family upon the throne of these kingdoms. As a further guard and security, however, against any possible consequence of the measure, he proposed that a sufficient test might be formed, by which they should bind themselves to the support of the civil government by law established. Mr. Dunning seconded the motion, and went into a legal discussion of the principle, objects, and past operation, of the Bill which was intended to be repealed. The following he stated as the great and grievous penalties.—The punishment of Popish priests or Jesuits, who should be found to teach or officiate in the services of that church ; which acts were felony in foreigners, and high treason in the natives of this kingdom.—The forfeitures of Popish heirs, who had received their education abroad, and whose estates went to the next Protestant heir.—The power given to the son or other nearest relation, being a Protestant, to take possession of the father, or
and ought to have but one wish, and one sentiment, we humbly hope it will not be deemed improper to assure your Majesty of our unreserved affection to your government, of our unalterable attachment to the cause and welfare of this our common country, and our utter 'letestation of the designs and views of any foreign power against the dignity of your Ma. jesty’s crown, the safety and tranquillity of your Majesty's subjects. , * “The delicacy of our situation is such, that we do not presume to point out the particular means by which we may be allowed to testify our zeal to your Majesty, and our wishes to serve our country; but we intreat leave, faith
fully to assure your Majesty, that we shall be
perfectly ready, on every occasion, to give such proofs of our fidelity, and the purity of our intentions, as your Majesty's wisdom, and the sense of the nation, shall at any time deem expedient.”
The above Address was signed by the duke of Norfolk, the lords Surry and Shrewsbury, Linton for the Scotch, Stourton, Petre, Arun. del, Dormer, Teynham, Clifford, and 163 C0 In Ouets.
other relation's estate, during the life of the real proprietor.—And, the depriving of Papists from the power of acquiring any legal property by purchase; a word which, in its legal meaning, carried a much greater latitude than was understood (and that perhaps happily) in its o acceptation; for it applied to all legal property acquired by any other means than that of descent.—These, he said, were the objects of the proposed repeal. Some of them had now ceased to be necessary, and others were at all times a disgrace to humanity. The imprisonment of a Popish priest for life, only for officiating in the services of his religion, was horrible in its nature; and must, to an Englishman, be ever held as infinitely worse than death. Such a law, in times of so great liberality as the present, and when so little was so be apprehended from these people, called loudly for repeal; and he begged to remind the Ilouse, that even then they would not be left at liberty to exercise their functions; but would still, under the restriction of former laws, be liable to a year's imprisonment, and to the punishment of a heavy fine.—The mildness of government had hitherto softened the rigour of the law in the practice, but it was to be considered that the Roman Catholic priests were still left at the mercy of the lowest and basest of mankind; for on the complaint of any informing constable, the magisterial and judicial powers were bound to enforce all the shameful penalties of the Act. With respect to the encouragement held out by it, to those children who were base enough to lay their hands on the estates of their parents, or which debarred a man from the honest acquisition of property; it needed only to be mentioned in order to excite the indignation of the Ilouse. Mr. Attorney General Thurlow declared he had no intention of opposing the Bill: but he divided its object into four heads, and wished that the House would not go into the consideration of repealing this or that obnoxious clause in this or that Bill; but that it would take up the principle upon which the laws on each head were enacted, and so modify the indulgence to be given the Roman Catholics, as not to lose sight of the civil objects for which they were framed. The first proposition, he said, was the preaching, and teaching of priests; the second, the education of children abroad; for this was different from the teaching meant in the first proposition, as one was the department of the priest or jesuit, the other of the parent in directing his child's education; the third was the forfeiture of infants educated abroad to the Protestant next of kin; and the last was the prevention of holding acuired property. Of all these he held as e most shocking that which debarred the o from exercising the noblest and est of all affections, the educating of his child in the manner that he thought best for the happiness of his beloved offspring. It was arming the vices of a family against its domestic oeconomy, and could not but excite detestation in every breast in that House. To remedy so glaring an evil required little hesitation; but to repeal the penalties against Popish priests exercising their functions freely, required some consideration. The House was first to determine how far they thought it safe to allow o, the free preaching and teaching of that `religion. When this point had been settled, acts could be framed accordingly: then the business could be effected on fixedM.'"; and not by piecemeal. ord Beauchamp expressed his satisfaction that the motion was not likely to meet one dissentient voice; and it gave him the more pleasure at this time, as he thought the commercial advantages that parliament now meant to bestow on Ireland, would be of very little use to that country, unless it was accompanied by a repeal of their penal laws, which so long depressed three-fourths of the people there; and this Bill he hoped would, when passed, be an example to the Irish parliament, in whose power it was to give that relief to their brethren ; and he was sorry to say he thought, though their faith was in some degree pledged for the effect of some such measure, that nothing had yet been done for that people. They had begged to have a test of loyalty and obedience to the government given them— that test was made, and taken by a large and respectable number of Roman Catholics, yet nothing had yet been granted them in return for that test; nay more, when a Bill had been brought into the Irish parliament to allow Papists to take building leases in corporate towns, that most reasonable indulgence was ungenerously refused them. Something, he said, might be suggested in excuse with relation to the late disturbances in the south-west part of Ireland; but he assured the House, that he never knew a Roman Catholic of property in that country who did not ex
press the greatest abhorrence of those violences; and he was convinced, that it was want of employment, want of industry, and want of reward for labour, that caused them; and he concluded with a declaration, that he did not think the little indulgence which was now proposed to be given the Roman Catholics of this kingdom should be accompanied by any test, as he was sure that any member who read over the Act of king William would think that in repealing it he was not so much employed in conferring favours on the Catholics as in rescuing the statutes from disgrace. Mr. Henry Dundas (lord advocate) informed the #. that the acts intended to be repealed were made before the union of England and Scotland, and therefore the repeal would not extend to Scotland, as a statute had taken place in their own parliament, nearly in the same terms, and which he would bring in a motion to repeal. Mr. Serjeant Adair spoke in favour of the motion, not only on account of its principal tendency in point of policy, but because it would liberate the Roman Catholics from the frequent attacks made upon them, under the Acts, by persons, from motives of interest or envy. The motion was agreed to nem. con.
May 18. The Bill being brought in and read a first time, sir G. Savile moved the second reading.
Mr. Ambler thought that the whole system of our penal laws should be revised: infinite and well-grounded were the objections against them, and whatever might have been the cause for which they had been enacted, he was satisfied that none existed now. A committee ought to be appointed to examine into the penal code, and see what parts of it ought to be repealed; but as that must necessarily take up a great deal of time, being a business of very great importance, and the session being so far advanced, he thought it would be proper to defer the further consideration of the Bill to next year. He insinuated, however, that somerestraint should be laid on the Catholics; he had no objection to giving them security for the quiet possession of their estates: those who now enjoyed any might be confirmed in them, and their heirs, as Catholics, declared capable of succeeding to them without being obliged to conform, in order to secure themselves from informations, or against the mean attacks of protestant